Review by Lynn Esposto-Freedman
“Zero to One” by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
Listing Peter Thiel’s current accomplishments, companies and investments could become a full time job. It is easy to see why this Silicon Valley based billionaire is interested in surviving with less sleep and discovering the secret to living longer; he is attracted to concepts that improve performance. The human body is no exception. You may feel like you just ran a marathon if you try to read too much of this book at once. The content is not difficult to understand, the writing style is not formulaic, it is just exhausting in the same way a hyperactive, inquisitive toddler can be.
Peter Thiel – Author – Co-Founder of PayPal; Facebook Board Member; Co-Founder, Founders Fund; Founder, Clarium Capital Management, Co-Founder, Palantir, and Silicon Valley Billionaire
It is simply astounding how many different areas Thiel invests in, companies he creates, alternative thoughts he has on education–in spite of being Stanford educated–interesting political beliefs he has, and then in his spare time he cranks out this startup guide. You will not be able to read this without an e-reader that allows you to highlight or a notebook on the side of the book to jot down notes. Give this book your full attention, even if in just minutes at a time. Starting small is what Thiel preaches.
Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One” in a nutshell: start small, really, really small or even miniscule with your target market. The “Rome wasn’t built in a day” expression is applicable here. Of course, nothing like Rome would ever happen if it weren’t for plans. One tiny step at a time, and plans. While domination and a monopoly are goals Thiel embraces, he is pragmatic about inching over the start line before you dream of collecting gold bars as you sprint across the finish line.
Here are the main messages I took away from the book:
- Have a product, service or technology that is brand new and has zero competition. Of course it should be awesome and gobble up the market. Thiel is very pro-monopoly.
- Have a product, service or technology that is at least 10x better than anything else in your identified target market.
- If the market is a multi-billion dollar market, see #2, nothing about his advice changes, 10x better is his minimum So don’t expect to just instantly merge into existing markets with your pet project and succeed.
Thiel’s advice knows no geographical boundaries. The seeds are scattered and new tech life is growing in every corner of the planet. In addition, Thiel’s definition of technology doesn’t always require a computer, but involves improving any system, product or process. He highlights several high tech companies (almost all now household names) and uses those as examples of companies that have either entered a market as the pioneers or entered a market with what he believes was an exponential edge over competitors. Then he breaks it down to the simple building blocks that spawned that edge.
His tales of personal investments and technological breakthroughs in companies he has co-founded are fascinating. Thiel reveals that now household name PayPal wasn’t successful in its first release. While PayPal eventually helped evolve e-commerce into an instant pay online marketplace, it wasn’t always that way. Here is a hint: when plan A didn’t work out, the founders identified a more practical market to target: top sellers on Ebay…and the rest is history.
Chapter 5, the “Last Mover Advantage”, will provide hope for all of the future entrepreneurs who aren’t sure how to even begin. Nearly 3,000 people have highlighted this comment, “The perfect target market for a startup is a small group of particular people concentrated together and served by few or no competitors.” (p54) (On my Kindle).
“Disruptions” is a tech word, but Thiel says, “As you craft a plan to expand to adjacent markets, don’t disrupt; avoid competition as much as possible.” (p57) (2200+ highlights on my Kindle.)
Thiel is prolific with his questions and that style will prompt you to really think rather than answer yes or no. This isn’t a bible full of answers, in fact, many chapters lean toward questions. All of his questions take time to process if you contemplate them seriously. Upon answering, you may hear your own truth.
There is a lot of history, political and educational information between the covers. The reader may find this riveting or want to dive in to the startup guidance tidbits only. Creating a startup is a dream for many, and if you follow Thiel’s advice, it may just stay that way. He stresses the importance of loving the one you are with if there is great success and you enjoy it.
“Zero to One” has already rocketed to top of the Amazon.com charts and is the #1 seller in Economic Policy and Development, #1 seller in Entrepreneurship books and the most “Wished For” book in the Small Business and Entrepreneurship section. The reviews on Amazon average a 4.5 approval (5 is best) rating.
Interested in Thiel’s latest investments? Search his name regularly and you will find something that has piqued his interest! Read more about “Breezeworks” in the Wall Street Journal and you will get some clues.
You will find the book on the front tables of most book stores. I found my non-virtual book at Barnes & Noble. It looks just like my photo at the top of the article. Click below for the Amazon version.